AICP, Executive Director
P: 540-639-9313 x212 | email@example.com Kevin Byrd began working for the Commission in 2005 as a Regional Planner and was appointed Executive Director in October 2009. He has over 15 years of community development experience in the public sector at the town, county and regional levels of government along with private sector consulting experience. He has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Science degree from Appalachian State University. He is currently in leadership roles serving as President of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), Secretary/Treasurer of the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC), and President of Live, Work, Eat, Gather, Inc. a non-profit focused on the holistic impact of local food systems. Kevin is also on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and the Southeast Regional Director’s Institute. In his volunteer time he serves as Past President of the New River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. In 2018 he received the Distinguished Business Leader of the Year Award from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the VAPDC President’s Award for his leadership in guiding the state association to hire their first executive director.
Regional Planner II/Communications Specialist
Kathleen Armstrong joined the Commission as a Regional Planner in 2021 after completing a master’s in Landscape Architecture at North Carolina State University. During her time at NCSU, she became intrigued with participatory design theory and worked to create implementable tools for diverse communities across the region. Kathleen has worked in the community engagement field for the past 6 years, in both experiential education and food access. At the commission, Kathleen focuses on communication and community outreach. She is passionate about assisting local partners envision the future of their region and connect to the environment.
Director of Finance and Personnel
Jessica Barrett joined the Commission in March 2018 as a part-time finance technician following 2 years as the Supervisor of Finance for a local school district. Prior to her work in school finance, she spent over 10 years in public accounting, with the most recent being in the tax department of a regional accounting firm.
Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy from Bluefield State College in West Virginia. She is a licensed CPA in WV and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
P: 540.639.9313 x202 firstname.lastname@example.org
Economic Recovery Planner
Summer was hired in November 2020 as NRVRC’s Economic Recovery Planner. Her role is to understand how communities and businesses in the region have been impacted by COVID-19, and work with them to create a new—hopefully better—normal. As a part of these efforts, she is working on composing an Economic Recovery Plan for the region, and the assisting with the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Update.
Summer earned her master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech in 2020, and her BA in History from James Madison University. While pursuing her master’s degree, Summer worked for Virginia Tech’s Institute of Policy and Governance where she assisted with the data management and process evaluation for a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) grant. She also worked on several projects as part of her Graduate Studies including a site planning project for the National Park Service, research and preliminary language for a temporary/seasonal vending ordinance in Buena Vista, VA, and recommendations for enabling legislation for craft beer production in the Town of Blacksburg, among other projects.
MPH, Public Health Director
Ashley joined the commission in 2020 after working for the last 3 years as a research project manager with Virginia Tech. As Public Health Director for the Business Continuity Team, Ashley is responsible for providing leadership and guidance to local businesses through services such as contact tracing, scheduling vaccination clinics, business continuity planning, and infectious control consultation.
After graduating with her master of public health concentrating in infectious diseases, Ashley worked for the New River Valley Health District investigating cases of communicable disease while also providing community outreach and education. She also brings a background in restaurant management and grant administration. Ashley currently serves as Chair of the Christiansburg Bikeway Walkway Committee, a Town of Christiansburg Planning Commissioner and the New River Valley Captain for the Medical Reserve Corp.
P: 540.639.9313 x251
AICP, Senior Planner
Aphi Fancon, AICP, joined the commission as a regional planner in 2017 after working in Florida for 8 years. Before relocating to Virginia, she worked extensively with long range and current planning as the Senior Planner at the City of Titusville, and the City Planner at the City of Cocoa Beach Florida. Aphi was heavily involved with updating the city comprehensive plans, including compliance with water supply concurrency, working with staff, various boards, commissions and the community. She played a key role in Greater Titusville EcoHeritage Trail Plan, and was a staff liaison to the Titusville Environmental Commission.
Aphi holds a Masters degree in Water Resource Planning and Management from the University of Florida, a Masters in Planning from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, and a Bachelors in Civil Engineering from NERIST, India. She has also completed an intensive study program in Urban Ecological Planning as a NORAD fellow in Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
P: 540.639.9313 x217
Regional Planner II/Community Designer
Nicole joined the commission in 2019 after completing a dual master’s in landscape architecture and natural resources from Virginia Tech. At the commission, Nicole is passionate about working with people from around the region towards improved water quality and healthy lands. She exhibits her expertise on projects like the New River Watershed Roundtable, the Plant Southwest Virginia Natives Campaign, and the Crab Creek Beautification Project. She also enjoys leading community design projects, assisting local partners in conceptual design of public spaces. Nicole sits on the board of the New River Conservancy and co-chairs their Technical Advisory Committee. She also serves on the Recreation Advisory Board for the Town of Blacksburg and the Executive Committee of the Virginia chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. She is a 2021 fellow with the Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute.
P: 540.639.9313 x202
Public Health School Liaison
Holly Larson Lesko was hired as the Public Health School Liaison in October 2020 to support the Business Continuity Team in supporting schools, childcare centers, and other organizations to respond to and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Holly has lived and worked in the New River Valley for nearly 32 years and this position is a true return to her roots as her first position after graduate school was with the NRVRC as an economic development planner in 1992. Holly has worked with communities and organizations in the New River Valley region and across the Commonwealth for the past 29 years in the areas of comprehensive planning, leadership development, economic development and enhancement, educational training and curriculum development, public health assessment and program delivery, grant writing, facilitation, assessment and evaluation as well as grassroots community organizing.
Her focus in community development is on long-range goal development with community health assessments evaluation tools to create new ways of viewing and approaching issues and concepts through inclusive and diverse community engagement. Most recently, Holly was the Program Director for VT PEERS, an NSF funded program to provide educational tools and teacher training to enhance STEM related educational and work opportunities for students in rural parts of Virginia. Prior to that work, Holly was on the Research Faculty with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance and supported by the VT Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology for her narrative work. She served as the Principal Investigator for the New River Valley: Healthy NRV project in partnership with the NRVRC which is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded effort. This project was a community-based participatory research program focused on assessing the impacts of health factors in community development and engaging youth in local communities in community health conversations utilizing her skills in community engagement, inclusive partnership centered programming, as well as digital storytelling and gathering.
Additionally, Holly has worked extensively with federal, state and local funding agencies and has helped local organizations and communities secure over $6,000,000 in local, state and federal aid to further development and community projects in the region. Holly holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.
Finance Technician Part-time
Janet McNew is a life-long resident of Pulaski County. After twenty-five years in the banking field she joined the Regional Commission in September of 1999 as a Project Manager. While serving as a Project Manager she worked on a number of community projects including a transitional housing center in Radford as well as the Commerce Center and Jacksonville Center in Floyd. In January 2012 Janet was promoted to Director of Finance and Personnel a position she held until retiring in September 2019. She has been in the part-time Finance Technician role since November 2019.
P: 540.639.9313 x211
Melanie Morris, MPH joined the Commission in August 2020 as the Program Manager for the Business Continuity Team. She works closely with the New River Public Health Task Force to assist businesses in navigating protocols and procedures to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Melanie also serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at Radford University Carilion in the Department of Public Health and Healthcare Leadership.
Melanie has a background in youth drug and alcohol prevention in Roanoke City. She is the former Director of the Roanoke Prevention Alliance and served as a founding member of the Trauma Informed Community Network. She is passionate about building community resiliency and promoting health and wellness. Melanie obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from the former Jefferson College of Health Sciences (now Radford University Carilion). She received her Master’s in Public Health degree from Liberty University.
P: 540.639.9313 x248
Regional Planner II
Patrick O’Brien joined the Commission as a Regional Planner in 2014. Patrick focuses on economic development planning, data analysis, and grant writing and technical assistance to advance local economic development projects. Patrick maintains the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) planning document, and administers the NRVRC’s revolving loan fund for small businesses. Patrick has a special interest in workforce development issues, small business and entrepreneurship development, and redevelopment of downtown commercial districts. Patrick received a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech, and a BA in English from James Madison University.
P: 540.639.9313 x206
Bethany Peters joined the Commission as a Planning Intern in March 2021. Bethany serves in a support role for various regional projects, with her focus mainly on web design and development. She has a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Radford University, and is currently working towards a degree and several certificates in Full-Stack Web Development from New River Community College.
Julie Phillips joined the Regional Commission in 2012 as Office Manager after working for a local remodeling firm for 6 1/2 years. Julie serves as staff support to the Regional Commission board of directors as well as support for the Commission convening role through Member Services. She also provides staff support for the Commission’s finance role for the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Board, New River Valley Commerce Park, Virginia Recycling Association, and the Southwest Virginia Solid Waste Managers Association. Julie has a Bachelor of Science degree in Design from Radford University.
P: 540.639.9313 x216
Deputy Executive Director
Elijah “Eli” Sharp joined the New River Valley Regional Commission in 2009. As Deputy Executive Director, Eli is responsible for managing the agency-wide annual work program and executing the day-to-day operational activities of the agency. In addition, Eli has the distinct pleasure of leading the planning and GIS team, who contribute to more than 40 projects across the New River Valley each year.
Eli has over fifteen years of combined private and public sector experience in rural and urban transportation planning, conceptual design, community and land development, agriculture, grant writing and administration, public engagement, and stormwater management. Eli enjoys working with state and local partners on collaborative projects that bring community visions to life.
Eli has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering Technology, from Bluefield State College, WV. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the NRVMPO Technical Advisory Committee, Co-Chair of the NRV Regional Transit Coordinating Council, as a representative on the National Rural Planning Organization Council of Peers, and is a founding member of the American Society for Highway Engineers, Blue Ridge Chapter. Prior to joining the Commission, Eli was a Civil Engineer for a private consulting firm in Blacksburg, Virginia.
P: 540.639.9313 x210 email@example.com
AICP, Senior Planner
Christy Straight has been a Regional Planner with the Commission since 2008. Her work program with the Commission spans a range of planning topics including hazard mitigation planning, transportation demand management, grant administration for community development, and economic development. She serves on the board of the Rural Planning Caucus of Virginia and is active in the Association for Commuter Transportation. Her background includes a degree in journalism from Ohio University and over a decade in marketing and sales for engineering and environmental services firms.
P: 540.639.9313 x209
Data Systems Manager
Kristie Warack joined the Regional Commission in 2018 after several years working in natural resources and the transportation industry. As Data Systems Manager, she manages the Commission’s GIS database and is responsible for the majority of the geospatial analysis and cartography. In addition, she also oversees the Commission’s website and IT infrastructure.
Kristie has a degree in Wildlife Conservation from Juniata College and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Information Technology from Virginia Tech.
P: 540.639.9313 x222
AICP, Senior Planner
Jennifer Wilsie, AICP, joined the Commission in 2007 as a regional planner. She works extensively with affordable housing for the region, providing staff support to the NRV HOME Consortium and was directly involved in the creation of the first regional housing plan for the New River Valley as part of the Livability Initiative. Through the administration of several Community Development Block Grants, Jennifer has experience working across a variety of sectors such as adult day services, housing rehabilitation, and local foods. Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Tech.
P: 540.639.9313 x204